Attending a ‘competency based’ interview…

Competency Based or behavioural interviewing is based on the belief that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour. The interviewer(s) will aim to obtain information about a candidates past behaviour in certain situations.

Competency based interviews are structured with questions that relate directly to the essential skills requirements and competencies needed for the post. Research suggests they can be one of the most reliable and accurate forms of assessment. A good recruitment and selection interview should assess you against each essential criteria or competency required and will ask questions about:

Past behaviours and performance
Learning from past behaviours
Future adaptability to a new post
Knowledge and understanding of issues in relation to the post

What does the interview focus on?...

Most interviews of a Competency Based nature will focus on nine key areas. These will mostly be competencies, but may also include other knowledge-based key criteria.

They will focus on those competencies that are most important for the particular job in question, but you may also be required to meet other, specific important criteria. This could be an in-depth knowledge of a particular area or experience of working in a similar role previously. The competencies and essential criteria against which you will be assessed will relate to those identified in:

The advert
The Job Description and Candidate Required Profile
The Application Form & Information Pack

What should I expect in the interview?...

The categories and examples of Competency Based Interview questions are as follow:

Organisational awareness

Describe the structure of your company and give an example of how you work within this culture to achieve a personal / professional goal?
Describe how you would perceive the new company and how you would adapt to this culture?

Strategic thinking

Describe your most challenging assignment or project and what you changed to adapt to that scenario?
How did you go about assessing your own performance within this assignment or project?


How do you keep your colleagues and superiors informed about difficult issues that directly affect their accounting?
Give an example of a difficult or sensitive situation that required you to use excellent communication skills?
Give an example of how you have developed communication skills in others

Employer and/or Client/Customer focus

Give an example of how you provided a service beyond expectations. How did you identify this need? What was the reaction?

Professional relationships

Describe how you develop and maintain professional relationships


Describe a situation in which you were a member of a team. What did you do to make a positive contribution to the team?
Describe a situation where there was conflict within the team and how you managed to resolved it.

Leadership ability

Describe how you led a team (comprising trainees, juniors and seniors) through a difficult process. How did you improve their work?
Describe a situation where you had to take charge either with your own team.


This is particularly relevant at managerial level where an employer may be looking for an individual who can make a positive profit making contribution to their company or organisation:

Describe something you have done that was new for your company that improved the performance of your team or the value of the work done
Have you done anything innovative that would be of direct interest to your employers or clients/customers and that enhanced awareness of your company?

Time management

How do you plan your time and prioritise?
Give a specific example of a time when you failed to complete a task or project on time
How did this outcome affect your company?
What could you have done differently?
How has that experience affected the way you deal with deadlines now?

Competency based interview questions are slightly different to the type of question you may have been used to. They will tend to focus on past situations and your behaviour (and possibly results) in those situations, as averse to just asking for general facts or a list of your skills. Questions are often likely to start with:

"Please give me an example of when. . ." or "Please describe an occasion when" etc.

What will the interviewer(s) be looking for?...

The interviewer(s) will be looking for specific examples about exactly what you did in particular situations, not what the team's role as a whole was, or what you would do in a hypothetical situation. You can choose to use relevant examples from your current job, a previous role, or a situation outside of work altogether and it is likely that you will be asked to discuss the example in some detail.

It is also likely that the interviewers will then follow with a number of probing questions, possibly clarifying a specific area. They will be interested in the outcome of the situation, what results were achieved and whether there was anything you learned from the experience, etc etc. The interviewer(s) may also want to ask you questions about the information you have provided in your application form.

It is recommended that you read through your application form again

Look again at the essential requirements
Try to anticipate the questions that may be asked
Prepare answers to these questions based on your current and past experiences

As the interview will be focused on past and specific examples, it would be advisable to think about possible examples that you could use.

Consider your role in the situation?
Were there any possible barriers or pitfalls to be faced?
How did you overcome these?
Is there anything that in hind sight you would have done differently?
Did you learn anything from this experience and if so, what?

Consider your past and present job and how your role fits within the team. Consider the job you are applying for and think about the issues and responsibilities related to that job.

At the end of the day, you may not be asked these types of questions during a particular interview, but thinking about these areas of your work/career to date and preparing for these questions will only put you in a stronger position to present yourself as a suitable or even ideal candidate for the role and therefore increase your potential for success at the interview.

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